Because there are limited technological solutions for decreasing emissions from aircraft engines and because demand for air travel is rising, mitigating the environmental impact of aviation is a challenge. The idea of installing batteries and electric motors in a plane is considerably different from that of ground-based EVs. One reason is that electric aircraft would need to be significantly larger and heavier than their counterparts powered by fossil fuels, which is not ideal for a mode of transportation that is all about speed and efficiency. Additionally, you cannot just haul batteries around without leaving space for passengers and/or cargo.
Thankfully, there are still businesses working diligently to solve the issue and develop electric airplanes that are both commercially and practically viable. Eviation is one of these businesses, which we have been following since 2017. The designs have evolved considerably from where they were a few years ago, but gradual and steady advancement has lately resulted in a significant milestone.
The business has demonstrated that a practical electric aircraft can take to the skies and that their concept works in practice rather than merely on paper or in simulations. I advise reading my colleague Tina’s post to understand more about that.
Let’s briefly review the first flight and briefly explore the backdrop so that everyone is on the same page before I get into how the plane could revolutionize the business.
THE TRAVEL PATH FROM THERE TO HERE The business disclosed significant information about its technology and strategy in our 2018 coverage.
Its CEO estimates that operating a corporate jet costs $3,000 per hour. An electric aircraft, however, essentially reduces that cost by 90%. Additionally, because electric aircraft are 92–95 percent more efficient than their kerosene counterparts, they are subject to the same weight limitations when landing. Although it may seem complicated, all contemporary aircraft are built in this manner so that they can take off and land in an emergency with the exact same weight. So for designers, avoiding “losing weight” while flying isn’t a very difficult task.
According to the business, a 400Wh/kg battery can actually enable viable flight, and current-generation batteries are in fact sufficiently energy-dense to make this possible. With 900 kWh, the battery pack for Alice accounts for 65% of the aircraft’s weight. The power output from the electric motors is 3 260 kW. With a service ceiling of 30,000 ft (9,144 m) and an approach landing speed of 100 knots, the Alice is equipped.
Eviation decided on the magniX magni250 propulsion system before May 2019. The business wanted to be the first to provide a fully functional electric commuter jet. The Alice electric passenger aircraft should be able to travel 650 miles (208 nm) at a speed of roughly 240 knots (276 MPH) with a service ceiling of 30,000 feet, which is sufficient to clear traffic on hour-long trips. Its maximum takeoff weight is 6,350 kg (about 14,000 lb).
Immediately following the electric aircraft’s Paris debut, in June 2019, Eviation reportedly found its first customer in Cape Air. The design was complete in 2021, and the business was getting ready for the runway. They had originally wanted to take to the skies in 2021, but things didn’t go as planned and it took longer than expected.
DHL became another client of Eviation later in the previous year. DHL decided to purchase 12 Alice electric cargo planes from Eviation at the time, establishing the first electric air freight network in the world. The 12 aircraft will be utilized by DHL’s American operations. Eviation anticipates delivering the zero-emission cargo airplane to DHL Express in 2024.
Eviation has just finished a test flight. At 7:10 in the morning on September 27, Alice departed from Grant County International Airport (MWH). It took off and flew for 8 minutes at a height of 3,500 feet; this was the technology demonstrator’s initial flight. Important information was obtained by Eviation during the flight to help with the aircraft’s optimization for commercial manufacturing.
Gregory Davis, president and chief executive officer of Eviation, said, “Today we embark on the next era of aviation. With the amazing first flight of Alice, we have successfully electrified the skies.” For the first time, people can see and hear what a fixed-wing, all-electric aircraft looks and sounds like when it is operating at an inexpensive, clean, and sustainable level. This groundbreaking accomplishment will drive innovation in environmentally friendly air travel and influence future passenger and cargo travel.
Customers of Eviation were happy to hear that the flight went well.
Founder and Board Chairman of Cape Air Dan Wolf said, “The first flight of Alice symbolizes a transformational milestone for the aviation sector. We currently connect more than 30 destinations in the United States and the Caribbean with more than 400 regional flights every day. Alice can easily handle 80% of our flight operations, providing communities we serve with environmentally friendly, emission-free travel.
DHL was also pleased to note that the fulfillment of its contract for 12 cargo aircraft was progressing.
Geoff Kehr, Senior Vice President, Global Air Fleet Management, DHL Express, stated that “the first flight of Alice reinforces our confidence that the era of sustainable aviation is here.” “We are investing in our ultimate aim of zero-emission logistics with our order of 12 Alice e-cargo planes. By introducing new and more environmentally friendly cargo aircraft types to the international market, DHL is the market leader. By making long-distance air travel possible for the first time with zero emissions, Alice is the real game-changer. This historic flight represents a crucial turning point on our path toward 2050’s goal of net-zero emissions.
INFORMATION UPDATED REGARDING THE PLANE As we all know, Alice is a low-noise, zero-emission, and cost-effective method of transportation. Compared to light jets or high-end turboprops, it operates at a lower cost per flight hour and emits no carbon dioxide. But it’s crucial to learn more about the final design and what it can truly perform, particularly for purchasers and investors who might be interested.
The finished design can go at 260 knots at its top speed (about 300 MPH, 481 kph). The aircraft’s maximum takeoff weight will be 2,500 pounds for the passenger versions and 2,600 pounds for the cargo versions.
Three variations of the six-passenger ExecuCar are available: a nine-passenger commuter vehicle, a classy and refined six-passenger executive cabin, and an eCargo model. Every configuration can hold two crew members. The interior of the commuter variant is identical to that of the executive cabin and eCargo models.
Two electric propulsion units from magniX are used to propel Alice. These are the only electric propulsion systems of this size that have been flight-tested, and they enable decreased noise pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. AVL (battery support), GKN (wings), Honeywell (advanced fly-by-wire system, flight controls, and avionics), Multiplast (fuselage), Parker Aerospace (six technology systems), and Potez are additional significant suppliers (doors).
The battery system is also removable and upgradeable, according to the manufacturer, which means that as battery technology advances, consumers will be able to get more range, performance, and possibly payload out of it. According to the manufacturer, the fly-by-wire cockpit of the aircraft offers improved system redundancy and reliability.
I’ll discuss how this little, but far less expensive to run plane might revolutionize the sector and bring back the fun of flying in Part 2!
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